Nationals vs. Phillies Game 3
By: Willie Bee
For the second game in a row, Matt Williams watched his Washington Nationals fall behind the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 in the first inning. Unlike Friday's series opener, however, the Nats couldn't mount a comeback as the Phils rolled to a 7-2 win in the second game of their set.
The loss kept Washington from taking advantage of the slumping Atlanta Braves to move into first in the NL East, and the Nationals now turn to Gio Gonzalez on Sunday to end their 5-game road trip on a winning note. Philadelphia manager Ryne Sandberg is switching up his rotation for the 3:05 PM (ET) matchup at Citizen's Bank Ballpark.
That change in the pitching matchup has wagering action on hold until later Sunday morning. As always, baseball bettors can catch the latest lines on SBR's live MLB odds.
Flu Sidelines Hamels
To Scratch All-Southpaw Clash
Gonzalez never saw the Phillies while he was pitching for the Athletics, but he has more than made up for that with solid performances since coming to the Nationals before the 2012 campaign. Washington is 6-2 against the Phils with Gonzalez on the hill, the Floridian pitching to a 2.66 ERA in nearly 51 innings with 56 K's.
He had the one bad start at Atlanta in the middle of April, the only loss the Nats have suffered in Gonzalez's six assignments. That contest also saw him serve up the only two long balls he has allowed in 2014.
Cole Hamels was to have started for the Phillies, but the flu bug bit to prevent him from extending his dominance over the Nationals. Philadelphia has won 20 of his 27 career starts vs. Washington, Hamels sporting a 2.58 ERA over the course of nearly 185 innings.
Roberto 'Don't Call Me Fausto' Hernandez takes the mound instead, and thanks to off days this week for the Phillies, he is working on normal rest. Hernandez made a relief appearance this past Tuesday against the Mets, his most recent starting assignment in Arizona on April 25. This will be his first appearance against the Nats since 2010 when the Dominican tossed a complete game 3-hitter while pitching for the Indians.
Umpire Notes, Mother Nature & A Free Pick
Sean Barber, one of several roving umpires from the Triple-A level, is in line to have the dish for Game 3. He made his MLB debut earlier this season, and four of his first five plate assignments have gone past the total.
Cloudy and windy with temps only reaching the mid-60s are in the offing for the City of Brotherly Love. The weatherman is predicting west winds in the 18-22 mph range (left to right) which could lead to adventures on a few pop-ups and fly balls.
I'm leaning towards Gio and the Nats.
My pick: Lean Nationals
Season: 31-32 (-1.9)
Nationals vs. Phillies Game 2
By: Willie Bee
The Philadelphia Phillies caught a break early in Friday's matchup with the Washington Nationals when Jayson Werth muffed a foul pop in the first inning that would have ended the frame. Marlon Byrd took advantage of his extended at bat by launching a 3-run homer, and with Cliff Lee on the mound, most fans at Citizens Bank Park thought their team was headed to a win.
But Lee and the Phils couldn't make that stand up as the Nationals fought back to take the series opener, 5-3. Ryne Sandberg and Philadelphia now look to even the set with AJ Burnett on the hill in the 7:05 PM (ET) start. Matt Williams and Washington aim to keep the good times rolling behind Tanner Roark.
A quick check of SBR's live baseball odds reveals the Phillies small favorites in the -115 to -120 range, and another low-scoring affair is also in the offing with a 7.5 run total that is priced to the 'under.'
Nats Cut Deeper Into Atlanta's NL East Lead
Washington is slowly but surely making up ground on the Atlanta Braves who are stuck in a slide as they continue their weekend set vs. the San Francisco Giants. The Nationals have won three in a row to move to a half-game back of the Braves, and a victory Saturday could push them to the top of the ranks.
Coming off the first shutout of his young career, Roark brings a scoreless string of nearly 19 innings into Saturday's scrape. The Illinois alum limited the Padres to three hits and a walk last Saturday in DC, striking out eight along the way in the fourth quality start of his five trips to the mound this season.
Roark will be taking the hill at Citizens Bank Park and facing the Phils as a starter for the first time. He tossed a pair of perfect relief innings against them last August to pick up his first major league victory.
Phils Sink To Division Cellar With Friday Setback
Burnett battled control issues a few weeks ago, walking six in back-to-back starts at the Cubs and vs. the Marlins. But the veteran has really settled down in three assignments since then, walking only three, striking out 18 and allowing two runs in almost 22 combined innings vs. the Braves, Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
Pittsburgh won two of the three starts Burnett made against the Nats the past two seasons. The North Little Rock native surrendered but four earned runs in those 22 frames, sending 24 would-be Washington hitters back to the dugout with a K in the boxscore.
There is a lot to like with the low side of the total in this one, given Roark's recent success and Burnett's numbers against the Nats. But we ran with the underdogs last night for a small payout, and that's where I'm going again with my free MLB pick in Game 2.
My pick: Nationals +105
Season: 30-31 (-1.9)
Nationals vs. Phillies Game 1
By: Willie Bee
One month down, five to go on the MLB betting schedule, and May gets started with a key battle between division rivals as the Philadelphia Phillies host the Washington Nationals.
The series kicks off Friday in the City of Brotherly Love with a dandy matchup on the mound between the Phils' Cliff Lee and Nats' Stephen Strasburg. Lee is expected to deliver the first pitch at Citizens Bank Park a little after 7 PM (ET), and after a week of bad weather in the eastern half of the nation, all signs point to Mother Nature being on good behavior this weekend.
Game 1 was sent out as a pick 'em, and that's where it remains on the MLB odds. Seven was the tally for the initial total, but that has been bet down to 6.5 following overnight action.
This is the first of six scheduled meetings between the Nationals and Phillies, Washington making two more trips to Philly in July and August while the Phils venture to the nation's capital in June, August and September. Friday's contest will be No. 763 between the clubs, dating to when the Nationals played in Montreal, and the Phillies have a 400-360 edge with a couple of games suspended as draws over the years.
Washington has won two of the three previous season series, the third ending in a 9-9 tie. The Phillies are 59-34 vs. the Nationals at CBP since it was christened in 2004, with the clubs splitting the 10 played on this diamond a year ago and 'under' bettors rewarded seven times.
Nats Close April On
Washington (16-12, +1.1 units, 15-11-2 O/U/P) didn't have to deal with any wet weather this week like so many teams, and the Nationals also didn't have to deal with much offense in their quickie series vs. the Astros in Houston. They needed a couple of late ribbies from 1B Adam LaRoche to take the opener, then got a combined shutout from Jordan Zimmermann and the bullpen in Wednesday's 7-0 whitewashing.
The mini-sweep helped Matt Williams' club end April with five wins in the last seven games, pushing the Nationals a little closer to the Braves in the NL East with only 1.5 games between them now. Washington is managing to stay afloat so far despite missing several key players such as Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, both dealing with thumb injuries.
A pitching staff that has put up a 3.16 ERA and NL-leading 271 strikeouts has helped the Nationals while Harper's and Zimmerman's bats are out of the mix. Strasburg reports into Friday's fracas with a 4.24 ERA, more than a run higher than his career mark, but has chopped that number down the last two starts (13 combined IP, 2 ER) vs. the Cards and Pads. Washington won two of his three appearances against the Phils last season, the loss coming in a well-pitched game at Citizens Bank Park.
Lee 1st Of 3 Vets Phils Send To Mound This Weekend
Philadelphia (13-13, +1.6 units, 13-10-3 O/U/P) couldn't avoid the rain in a short series vs. the Mets, Wednesday's contest postponed after dropping a 6-1 decision to New York on Tuesday. That series followed a long road trip through the NL West that the Phillies lose the first two in Colorado before winning six of the final eight against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
Lee is coming off a no-decision in Arizona last Saturday as his defense let him down a bit. Philadelphia did rally for a 6-5 win, however, and has triumphed in four of Lee's six starts so far. Control has long been the lefthander's forte, and that's no different in 2014 with only four batters reaching base via the free pass in his 41 innings.
He has made nine starts against the Nationals since rejoining the Phils in 2011, Philadelphia winning four of those assignments while Lee posted a 3.03 ERA with 65 K's in just over 62 innings. Former Phillie Jayson Werth has been a tough out for Lee, the Washington outfielder hitting .357 (10-for-28) with a pair of bombs.
The weather looks fine for the entire weekend, though we will keep an eye on possible heavy winds in the Sunday finale. I'm liking Strasburg and the Nats in this one, and that's where my free baseball pick will be made.
My pick: Nationals -105
Season: 29-29 (-0.9)